How to Choose the Best Homeschool Curriculum
Picking a curriculum for your family is a nightmare.
You have so many choices and they’re all excellent. So how do you choose the best homeschool curriculum for your family?
Follow my easy guidelines!
Continue to Use What Works
My first recommendation for next year’s curriculum is to continue using what you’re already using.
Most of my curriculum choices next year fall into that category. We just finished Tapestry of Grace year 4, so next year we’re swinging back around to Tapestry of Grace year 1.
We use Saxon Math, so the kids are simply moving to the next book.
When you stay with the same curriculum, you don’t need to worry about placement, missing material, or learning a new curriculum style. It’s a case of simply moving to the next book or level.
But what if you need to jump ship?
One of the worst habits homeschoolers get into is to jump curriculum because something else looks better. It’s the grass is greener on the other side of the fence effect. But often that’s not the case.
You’ve simply run into someone for whom the curriculum works and works well.
It’s like it was tailor-made for their family.
But that may not be the case for you. It often ends up being a huge mistake and an unwieldy curriculum UNLESS what you’re doing isn’t working.
Curriculum Gathering Dust
And by what isn’t working, I mean the curriculum is gathering dust on your shelves.
This is that excellent curriculum which you will do anything not to use. Perhaps it’s teacher intensive, your kids cry when you pull it out, or it simply sets your teeth on edge.
The reason doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you avoid using it. You run out of time and just can never get around to using it. And now it’s sitting on the shelf gathering dust.
You have two choices, adapt the curriculum until it fits your family’s needs. Or move on.
Quite frankly, I recommend moving on if possible. Sit down and figure out why the curriculum didn’t work, what you do need, and look for a new curriculum.
And count it a learning experience.
Kids Aren’t Learning
Another reason curriculum doesn’t work is when the kids aren’t learning.
That’s actually how my family ended up with Saxon Math. My oldest and I started with Singapore Math. We worked through the first book and started the second. He struggled. It was a disaster.
So I decided a review was needed and ordered a second copy of the first workbook. We went through the first book again, reached the second book, and he struggled. It was a disaster.
We tried a third time. Same results.
Well, the Singapore-Saxon War was going on at this time. To summarize, homeschool moms were feuding about how their program was best and the other program would RUIN your kids. I took a deep breath, decided that if Singapore wasn’t working, I’d go 180° in the other direction.
I ordered Saxon.
It was one of the best homeschool decisions I’ve made. We’re still using it 15 years later.
And just a side note: my older kids used Saxon Math and have done just fine in college math. My friends’ children used Singapore Math and have done just fine in college math.
Do what works for your family.
Sometimes a curriculum doesn’t mesh well with your children or your family’s style of learning. When that happens, change the curriculum.
You Loathe It
A third reason to change curriculum is when you loathe it.
You hate it. You absolutely detest it. You can’t put your finger on why you can’t stand it, but it sets your teeth on edge.
Sometimes it’s the writing style. Sometimes it’s the format. And sometimes it’s just an undefined hatred.
Don’t torment yourself!
Jump ship and switch to a curriculum that doesn’t drive you batty. Although it will help if you sit down and analyze why the curriculum is driving you batty.
Is the curriculum teacher intensive? Does it require a significant amount of your time to use it? Spelling is a good example of this.
Several of my kids have used Spelling Workout as their main spelling program. I love it. They could work through the material independently with very little involvement from me. My naturally good spellers use Spelling Workout and thrive.
Spelling Power is another option. It requires more time but works better for mediocre spellers. I’ll actually be using it with my 3rd-grade daughter this year.
My dyslexic child needed Apples and Pears. It defines teacher intensive. Did I say teacher intensive? I mean we sat down for 20-30 minutes every single day. I read the instructions, my child wrote.
But let me tell you, Apples and Pears worked where nothing else did.
Digital or Print
Sometimes digital or print is a make-or-break for your homeschool. For instance, if you live overseas and have to pay for shipping. Ouch! Digital may be what you need.
Or perhaps you’re road schooling. When you’re traveling, you don’t have space to bring boxes of material with you.
Again, you need digital materials.
Other times you want printed materials. You don’t have the resources to print a digital curriculum nor do you have good access to a computer. Or you’re like me and prefer to keep the kids off the computer as much as possible during the school day.
You need your material printed out for you.
So consider if you need a print or digital curriculum before you begin searching.
A scripted curriculum can be a make or break issue for many. Some moms love having specific words to say given to them. Other moms find it annoying.
If you’re wondering, I tend to glance over the script and then ignore it. So a scripted curriculum doesn’t make much difference to me.
I teach using my own words.
But it’s handy to know if you love or detest script as you search for a curriculum that will fit your needs.
Does the curriculum require additional material?
Tapestry of Grace gives me a recommended book list. I still need to choose which books the kids read and either purchase the books or check them out from the library. This can be expensive and time-consuming.
The Story of the World doesn’t require much to use. After purchasing the book and the activity guide, you have most of the materials you need. The activity guide includes questions, maps, and narrations. There are additional books recommended, but you don’t need them.
The Story of the World works if you simply read the chapters to your kids, run through the discussion questions, complete a narration exercise, and fill out the map.
Do you want a curriculum that requires additional material or do you want an all-in-one program?
My high school teenagers thrive when there is a DVD lecture available for them to use.
We use Art Reed’s DVDs for math. The kids turn on the DVD, watch the lecture, and then head off to complete the math.
Latin is working the same way. There’s not a daily lecture, but a weekly lecture. My son watches the lecture, participates in the chants, and then completes the worksheets during the week. He’s thrived with this approach.
Do you need DVDs to help your family learn the material? After all, there is a reason lectures have survived through the centuries as a teaching method.
Textbook or Workbook
Does it matter if the curriculum is a textbook or workbook? When we were on a tight budget and I was purchasing material for my oldest child, it made a huge difference.
A workbook needs to be purchased year after year for each child.
A textbook can be handed down through the children. And a textbook is easy to review material that wasn’t mastered the first time through. Simply flip back a few pages and start again.
But kids, especially young kids, thrive with workbooks. They can fill in the material. Enjoy the silly pictures. And see exactly what they need to do.
Make a note to yourself if you have a strong preference for textbooks or workbooks.
What is your budget for the curriculum? Nothing is worse than finding the perfect curriculum for your family, but it’s way out of your budget.
So jot down a few notes about how much you’re willing to spend on a good curriculum.
Sometimes the best curriculum is expensive – but is it an investment?
We chose to purchase Tapestry of Grace despite the expense. It simplified my life. Made it easy to teach all my kids despite having a high school kid, middle school kids, elementary child, and toddlers in the house.
Once we purchased all 4-year plans, we would not need to purchase Tapestry of Grace again. And our youngest was little, little, little. We had almost 18 years of homeschool ahead of use.
Tapestry of Grace was an investment.
Remember to include the cost of all the extra materials you need when you calculate the cost of a curriculum.
Nothing is worse than picking up a cheap curriculum when you’re on a budget and discovering the cost of all the extra books drives costs through the roof!
So take your time and research the various curricula. You’ll soon find the best homeschool curriculum for your family.